Immigrants come here because they have no choice - they have been driven from their countries by wars, torture and poverty, and they come to Ireland to make a fresh start. And like the Irish who emigrated to America, Australia, and all over the world, they are willing to work to help make themselves a new home. They do not live off social welfare by choice - the government forces them into it.
Applications for asylum can take up to three years to process. The government does everything possible to prevent people from putting downs roots in Irish society while this is taking place, probably to make them easier to deport. Asylum seekers are not allowed to take part in full-time education, and they are not allowed work. This means that while our hospitals are short of doctors, trained radiographers are told to sit idle in bedsits.
Why is the government forcing refugees to live off social welfare? The government doesn't want to give this money to refugees, and refugees want wages, not the dole. Its time to give refugees the right to work.
Ireland is a country that used to pride itself on its hospitality, but now seems intent on throwing out those who seek refuge here. Our history is of famine and political oppression, and we used to think we'd learned from this history, and so helped other small nations and stood up for human rights. Every year thousands of people used to leave Ireland, in search of a better life elsewhere. But when people come here fleeing famine, they are called spongers. People escape from torture, and they are called criminals. People come here looking for work, and they are told it is illegal.
The Anti Racism Campaign was set up last year to combat the growing anti-immigrant and anti-refugee hysteria being promoted by the government and the media. We think it is hypocritical and two-faced of politicians, who have presided over huge rates of unemployment, poverty and homelessness, to turn around and blame refugees. We condemn the press who are more interested in racist scare-mongering and sensationalism than offering information and solutions.
The facts speak for themselves. In the last three years there have been approximately 5,000 applications for asylum in Ireland - in the mid 80's up to 40,000 Irish people a year went to America to work, most of them illegally. There are more Irish people living in Munich than there are asylum seekers here. Ireland's population today is three million less than it was 150 years ago, how can there not be enough room for a few thousand more people.
The Minister of Justice, John O'Donoghue, is fond of saying we must 'take care of our own first'. What has he done to help the anti-drugs campaigners in the inner city? And since he is avowedly not racist, what has he done to 'take care' of travellers? He, and other members of the government, talk about refugees putting pressure on the housing system, but could the pressure be any greater than in 1996, when there were 37,000 people on the housing list, and the government only built 3,000 houses? And finally, if he is so concerned about the cost to social welfare of these 5,000 people, why won't he let them work?
For all the talk of the booming Irish economy, thousands of people have been marginalised, living and dying in areas with poor housing and education, high unemployment, and riddled with drugs. The government is trying to scapegoat refugees for these problems, to shift the blame from themselves. The Anti Racism Campaign was formed to combat this, to fight for equal rights for refugees and immigrants, and stop the government from deporting people back to countries where they may be tortured or killed, or suffer terrible poverty.
In the last year we have organised an international day of action on refugees, in which thousands of people took part, demonstrations and pickets on politicians and newspapers, and organised public meetings and information meetings for refugees. If you would like to get involved, we meet every Wednesday at 8.00 in the Irish Vietnamese Centre on Hardiwicke Street. We can be contacted at 10, Upper Camden St., or 088-2129770, or our web page at http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/arc.html.